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Sep 24, 2012 12:19 PM

Columbus, OH: what shouldn't we miss?

Hi All, we're coming from Oakland, CA to Columbus for ASTC conference in early October. We're super interested in trying the best Columbus has to offer. We're staying in Short North. Where is the best coffee that's local? A good place with a limited menu for old folks (who have trouble choosing, thus the limited menu). Anything we shouldn't miss?

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  1. Sorry for the delay in replying. I hope I can be helpful. Will you have a car? Do you only want places in walking distance? Any budget concerns? Are you staying near the Convention Center or elsewhere? Let me go ahead and give you some suggestions I hope will help.

    Alas, I am not a coffee person, but I do know there is a Cup o'JOe/MoJoe (local chain) near the convention center. There is also a coffee place inside the North Market (more on that soon) called A Touch of Earth and they are friendly and use local milk and cream. There is Cafe Brioso downtown, but that won't be convenient for your morning coffee. Oh, and Impero Coffee Roasters is also on High Street in the Short North. I hope a Columbus coffee person will chime in here and help you out. For what it's worth, I have always had good service at Cup O' Joe/MoJoe and A Touch of Earth, so if they are not the coffee you want, perhaps they could direct you.

    The one Columbus food I would advise you NOT miss is Jeni's Ice Cream. There is one inside the North Market and one on High Street very close to the Convention Center. Please go early in your visit and sample many flavors, as there is sure to be something you like.

    I am going to have to think about places with a limited menu. The first one that comes to mind that is in the Short North is Northstar Cafe. This is a locally owned small chain (3 locations) that serves good food, locally sourced and/or organic when possible. The architecture and atmosphere are as pleasant as the food. You order at the counter and then your food is brought to your table. They make the best veggie burger I've ever eaten, and my husband is very partial to their meatloaf, but I've never had bad food there. I also love the house-made ginger ale and the Shooting Star (carrot juice, orange juice, and ginger; I like mine with extra ginger). The menu is not as extensive as other restaurants.

    For a can't miss meal, try Risgby's, on High Street in the Short North near the Convention Center. It's a white-linen setting with excellent service, but casual in that you're welcome to come in shorts and sneakers. The food is always, always impeccable. I believe they do lunch during the week as well as dinner, but check the website. Their proper name is Rigsby's Kitchen.

    The same owner runs Tasi, which is a casual cafe tucked just a block or so off High Street. It is also order-at-the-counter, we-bring-your-food. It's a mix of counter, communal table, and small table seating. I think they do only breakfast and lunch. Their house-smoked salmon is very good. All the breads at Tasi and Rigsby's are baked at their own bakery, Eleni-Christina, which is also in the Short North and is open for retail sale to the public. Do not miss the raisin-walnut bread!

    Across High Street from the Convention Center, and another short block, is the North Market. This is a covered indoor market that has been in business in Columbus since the late 1800s, I think. There is a farmers' market outdoors every Saturday morning. Many of the indoor merchants are closed on Mondays. There is a butcher, a fishmonger, a poultry and game seller, a florist, a greengrocer, a baker, a cheese guy, a beer and wine shop, and also purveyors of everything from candy to spices to hot sauce to popcorn. There is also a lot of prepared food for sale. It's a great place for coffee and a pastry, lunch, a snack, dessert, grazing, or dinner. Taste of Belgium sells fantastic waffles and also makes crepes. There is a Jeni's. I like the pretzels from Brezel. The chocolates from Pure Imagination are not to be missed; they are as tasty as they are beautiful. Prepared food ranges from pizza to Polish to Middle Eastern to Vietnamese and more. Don't miss the offerings from Kitchen Little (at the side of North Market Poultry and Game) as everything they make is good.

    I will also mention DeepWood, on High Street near the Convention Center. I believe they offer lunch during the week, as well as dinner, but I would check their website. I have only eaten there once but it was a very good experience.

    There are many more restaurants I can recommend in Columbus, but I am not sure exactly where you are staying, what sort of transportation you will have, how far you want to venture (if your schedule even permits), and what your budget is. I'm happy to supply more suggestions. With the exception of Northstar, all the places I've mentioned are within close walking distance of the Convention Center (and I personally would not hesitate to walk to Northstar, but that would depend on what you are able and willing to do). There is lots more to try in Columbus!

    4 Replies
    1. re: kyra1

      Oh wow! I second Kyra1's suggestions.

      There's much more to C-bus, like if you are ever out late at night and want to see some of the hipper vibe to C-bus. Hound dogs pizza, Buckeye Donuts, or Blue Danube Dinner up by OSU will give you a dinner and a show. ;)

      Dirty Franks by central C-bus has a hipster vibe that is yet so OH.

      North Market is by the convention center and is an inside market with many unique venders like Hurbert's Polish food, Clever Crows pizza, and Jeni's. Clever crow is not like any pizza back home, NY, or Chicago.

      We have great taco trucks, pho, sushi, and dim sum houses, but I'm sure you can get that back home as well.

      1. re: kyra1

        Thanks. We'll be basically in Short North, so walking distance is great. We do have a car, so I am planning on hitting Dirty Frank's (mentioned below) and a few others.

        DeepWood was on my list--I read about it somewhere and I thought it might be worth a trip.

        Quick story about Rigsby's: in the late 80s, early 90s, my in-laws (who live in Westerville) had these strange mushrooms growing on their property.They brought them to Rigsby's to see if they were anything worth eating. Apparently the owner was like,these are MORELS. How many more do you have? So they supplied them for a while!

        My husband has lived out here for almost 20 yrs and doesn't get home much, so we're looking forward to exploring. Can't wait to finally try Jeni's. Been reading about it for years.

        Favorite breakfast places would be welcomed if you have any. Thanks everyone!

        1. re: zunzie

          You will be near North Market. For Breakfast there is a local coffee chain called Cup-O-Joe I like that is near by and Northstar cafe is great for brunch (doesn't open until like 9am.)

          1. re: zunzie

            I love your story about the morel mushrooms and Rigsby's restaurant!

            For breakfast, in the Short North, I recommend Tasi, which I think I mentioned above. Their house-smoked salmon is delicious. I also like Pistacia Vera in German Village. They are actually a bakery, and now that I know you have a car, I would recommend them for a visit also. They are known for their macarons but everything they make is good. They have a limited breakfast menu but it's very, very good. I love their croissants, especially the rye croissants. I believe they are open daily from 7 am to 7 pm.

            I also enjoy Skillet for breakfast (again, German Village) but it's a tiny place and the wait can be long. Further, I think they only do brunch on the weekends. I would recommend all their food at any time of day, but again, it's small and there can be a wait. The menu changes seasonally and is not long.

            NorthStar also does a good breakfast.

            Dirty Frank's is a lot of fun and the food is good, as long as you're in the mood for hot dogs and tater tots. I do love several of their menu items and the whole menu/decor/vibe is fun.

            The same restaurant group also owns Tip Top Kitchen, which is a favorite place of mine downtown. I am fond of their Ham and Slaw sandwich, which reminds me of a much better tasting version of the Buddy Boy sandwiches of my youth from Frisch's in Cincinnati. I upgrade to the pretzel bun and the sweet potato fries, which I think are the best I've ever had.

            I will see if I can think of more breakfast options for you.

        2. Personally (in addition to the excellent suggestions here), I'd say you shouldn't miss Schmidt's Sausage Haus. Whenever I've had friends visit from out of town, the things they remember best are Jeni's ice cream and the German food at Schmidt's.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Boston_Otter

            What dishes do you recommend the most at Schmidt's, and which ice cream flavours do you like the most at Jeni's?
            Thanks for any comments!

            1. re: prima

              You can't go wrong with their Salty Caramel, and I like the Whiskey with Pecans as well.

              1. re: prima

                Definitely agree with Diane on the Salty Caramel. I also love the Bankok Peanut when they have it, the Buckeye, and their sorbets. I usually pass on sorbets, but theirs are incredibly intense and amazing.

                At Schmidt's, go with the sausages -- their Bahama Mama is especially good despite the corny name. And definitely try their famous cream puffs.

            2. Agree with all the recs so far and would like to add Mac's Scottish bar on High St in the Short North. I am not a beer drinker, but they do have a great selection. They are open for lunch and dinner and have great hamburgers and pub-type food. They are kitty corner to a Jeni's, you could do that for dessert.

              Can also recommend the Flatiron on Nationwide Blvd, across from Conventon Center. They do Creole/New Orleans style food and their BBQ brisket sandwich is excellent.

              Danny's Deli on Front St. may be a little far for you, but they have the best corned beef sandwich in town.

              Give us a trip report after you visit, enjoy!

              5 Replies
              1. re: Diane in Bexley

                Oooh, will check out as much as we can. Thanks. I'm looking forward to it. I'll report back!

                1. re: Diane in Bexley

                  Hello! So here's our mid-trip report:

                  We went to Milestone 229 on Friday night and it was very good--I had a delicious burger with banana peppers, onion straws. I would go back if we were around...husband had fish and it was excellent.

                  Last night was a bomb: Montgomery Inn. This was not the original plan; we were supposed to go to an Amish place that was a ways out past the zoo, and I can't remember the name. There was so much traffic we just ended up at the Inn. Horrible: the service was slower than molasses, and inattentive. There was nobody in the entire place, my in-laws asked if there was a group there already and the idiots at the front desk told them Nope, nobody! So they sat on a bench for 10 minutes until mu husband called them and they were like, we're waiting for you!

                  Food was blah at best, and the portions were ridiculous: my pulled pork (which had no slaw, or anything to give it an acidic crunch) was enough for two people.

                  Today: Dirty Frank's. Loved it. Husband had a dog with siracha cream cheese and peppers and said it was out of this world. Kiddo had corn dogs and they were a hit.

                  We're very close to Knead and Deepwood, so they may be next.

                  1. re: zunzie

                    Glad you're having a good trip and thanks for checking in. So sorry you had a bad experience at the Montgomery Inn up near Sawmill. I've never been to that location, but they're from Cincinnati, and although they're very popular, it's not my favorite restaurant. Ugh. I am glad you enjoyed Dirty Frank's and hope you make it to Jeni's while you're still here. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

                    1. re: zunzie

                      Ahhh! I would have steered you to City Barbeque! I hate Montgomery Inn. City BBQ is a local chain that just expanded to Kentucky. While the beef and chicken are good there, pork is king to me there.

                      Glad you like Dirty Franks.

                    2. re: Diane in Bexley

                      I can strongly second Flatiron. I live abroad and every time I visit my family in Columbus, I go straight to Flatiron. Their burgers are my favorite anywhere (subjectively speaking) and their Creole food is awesome!

                      If you're outside of downtown, I love going to Mr. Sushi. Inventive and fresh ingredients. Get the Resource Roll, 2004 Roll and thank me later

                    3. If you have time do an internet search for Columbus Food Adventures. We took a Taco Truck Tour but they do a lot of restaurant tours too.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Jimonthebeach

                        We had tons of family stuff to do so we didn't get to as much as I'd have liked. Knead didn't open until 10 the day we were going to go, and my flight was at 11, so we never got there.

                        I didn't manage a scoop of Jeni's! So bummed...I was in the North Market (and if I lived in Cbus, that's where I'd be buying all of my meats) and did have a few sample tastes--OMG, the fig and coat cheese!-- we thought we'd go back that evening for a scoop and never got around to it.

                        My in-laws were insistent on the Cap City Diner for our last night, which was eh. Nothing I'd run back to. We also hit a Bob Evan's (my FIL loves them) and I was pleasantly surprised by a really good pot roast sandwich!

                        When we come back, I plan on hitting Tasi and Knead and I'll look into that tour. Sounds fun! Thanks for all the suggestions.

                      2. Thought you'd be interested to see that NY Magazine has discovered Columbus-